Shift From Self-Driven To Issue-Driven Social Media Listening

Are you focusing on the wrong things in your monitoring program?

Yesterday, I was impressed to discuss the following assertion from a company we’re hoping to work with, regarding their monitoring program (paraphrased below):

“We don’t just want more reading material; we want something that adds value to what we do.”

This one statement evolved into a valuable conversation on the difference between self-focused monitoring and a more holistic program focused not just on the organization but also on the issues that matter more broadly to the company.

The nature of self-focused monitoring

It seems obvious, but there’s an important distinction here. Many organizations focus on what other people are saying about them without broadening their focus to the things that really matter to them:

  • How many people are talking about us?
  • Are they saying nice things?
  • Where are they talking?
  • What kinds of things are they associating with us?
  • Are our organization’s key messages mentioned?

Benefits of self-focused monitoring

These programs are often used as yardsticks for determining the success of online programs and there’s certainly value in that. Self-driven monitoring can help both from a communications and a broader business perspective, for example:

  • Catch emerging issues related to your company or brands
  • Identify opportunities for product/service improvement (valuable research for product teams)
  • Spotting pent-up demand or frustration early
  • Provide an additional channel for proactive customer customer service
  • Assist with the evaluation of communications programs

Despite these benefits, though, self-driven monitoring only scratches the surface of the potential for monitoring.

Opportunities beyond “self”

Still, there’s so much more to online monitoring than this. Monitoring and listening programs focused purely on a company can miss much of the potential insight for the company.

  • What about emerging industry topics?
  • What about discussion of your competitors?
  • What about monitoring for hot-button media issues?
  • What about looking for what key voices (policy makers, for example) are saying about your industry?
  • What about broader consumer insights related to your market?

There’s a wealth of valuable information being discussed online nowadays; the limits of the potential usefulness are to a great extent only defined by your internal resources (time and people or, if outsourced, budget). With the right program, you can move from reactive, passive evaluation to proactive, real-time insights and actionable take-aways.

The most comprehensive monitoring programs define their sphere of conversation broadly, then dig into specific aspects for actionable insights – research, leads, media opportunities and so on. It is programs such as these, which can constantly evolve to incorporate emerging topics and trends, that realize the full value of the powerful tools out there (Radian6, Sysomos, Alterian SM2, Scout Labs etc) for mining these online conversations.

So, ask yourself: is there room to evolve the way you approach your social media monitoring?

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  • Yes, yes, yes! Self driven listening is important. It’s how companies figure out “where they are.” But it’s time to evolve and start listening for the topics the communities you have to add value to are engaged in.

    Great post Dave.

  • Dave,

    You make a great point. Having a focus of what you’re need and want to listen to is a key consideration in making sure your efforts are efficient and effective, as well as meeting your strategic goals and objectives.

    cheers, Mark

    Mark Evans
    Director of Communications
    Sysomos

  • Dave, I think this is a topic worth discussing much deeper. Especially the section on related topic monitoring. It’s interesting to see how many companies are monitoring… if at all. The monitoring is usually self-centered if you would. However, I find that often times this creates very self-centered and boring outreach.

    Lets take a space like twitter and a fictional company called WidgetGets. WidgetGets looks for all mentions of their brand and they aggregate it to a reader or monitoring tool. WidgetGets twitter stream starts re-tweeting all the good things people are saying about them, blogging about etc. In my opinion, because they are focused completely on vanity searches they many times get caught drinking their own cool aide and honking their own horn a bit too much. The accounts start to look like bots and there is basically no two way interaction.

    Now contrast that with a company called WidgetGives. WidgetGives seeks information about it’s industry, competitors, partners, current clients and maybe even clients it would like to have. Maybe WidgetGives sees a flash mob style attack on one of it’s competitors and alerts them privately about the situation. (Good Will) Maybe they monitor the industry and can glean timely insights about the market that they can pass along to customers. (this changed a friend of mines business life!) Maybe they can re-tweet the great things their partners and vendors are doing. All of a sudden the Monitoring they are doing is reflected in the way they present themselves online.

    I would love it if you could maybe share some insights into how monitoring is approached by certain clients and how that effects their public outreach and maybe even the culture of their business. I am currently working with two large clients. One that listens intently to my council and the other that doesn’t. It has created real life experience for me in both of the above scenarios. Maybe you could cover this in a future post. Thanks for writing this.

  • It’s not just listening. When creating properties on sites like Facebook, companies would do well to focus the community on an issue that they can address. I may never click on a ‘albuterol’ fan page, but create a ‘living with asthma’ page and you will have more pickup, more conversation, and more opportunity to make real change.

  • When our clients ask us about best practices in social media, we tell them that it’s not all about “them.” We counsel them to become members of the markets and communities they serve.

    Businesses definitely should consider and monitor brand engagement. However, customers and prospects aren’t just talking about specific products and brands. They are talking about topics of interest, and those discussions don’t necessarily equate to brand mentions. Thus, if companies are “listening” to the conversations that are happening on the real-time web, they need to be listening for conversations that are related in some way to their market. For instance, a natural foods company should not only be listening for their brand, but also for conversations around organic foods, healthy eating, whole grain recipes, etc.

    Taking this even further, companies who wish to engage in social media should also look to becoming a member of the communities they serve. They should be sharing interesting content that their communities will like. Their brand impressions, and the personnas that they project, are directly related to the content they share. If a company is just sharing product information, they look like their only interest is in themselves. If a company shares information, education, entertainment, etc. about a topic of interest to their community (that in SOME way relates to the community they serve), they are seen more as citizens than brand representatives. In the natural foods example, the company should be sharing information on the benefits of organic foods, recipes using organic ingredients, great examples of sustainable agriculture, etc. They will have positive brand impressions just by their contribution to the conversation and the foundations of trust within their communities.

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  • Maguire

    This is an issue I have seen arise within companies from the inside. I held a position with a mega bookstore chain, which shall remain nameless. During my two years with the company there had been a rapid turnover in upper management, you know, only three CEOs in two years. Well, with each new head of the company came devastating changes which they couldn’t see and, from visits to the store, still can’t. The old saying “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has powerful meaning. The company didn’t do enough “self” monitoring, and instead focused on what other companies where doing. The company has strove so hard to be like its major competitor that it will never recover its footing. The higher ups didn’t take into account all of the aspects of the company that made it unique and original in the first place.

    Marketing is something that companies, businesses, and people do on a daily basis so it is very important to pay attention to external monitoring issues and media while maintaining awareness of self monitoring issues, and only make pertinent adjustments.

    I would like to recommend and interview series of professional journalists and media specialists,
    http://www.ourblook.com/index.php?topic=future_of_journalism
    in which they discuss a variety of related issues the worlds of media and journalism are facing.

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  • This is an issue I have seen arise within companies from the inside.